Tennessee considers minor reduction in harsh penalties for possession
Last update: April 13, 2016
In Tennessee, possession of any amount of marijuana — even as little as a single gram — can land you in prison for up to a year, with a mandatory fine of between $250 and $2,500. In addition, third and subsequent possession convictions are felonies, punishable by one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $3,000.
A bill to eliminate the third-time felony provision has been moving through both the House and Senate this year and is poised to head to the governor’s desk. But, this would still leave Tennessee’s penalties extremely harsh. Tens of thousands of cases enter the system each year, families are impacted, and futures jeopardized. In addition, the laws are enforced unequally: In 2010, there were four African Americans arrested for every white arrested, despite the fact that both races consume marijuana at about the same rate.
Please ask your legislators to support replacing criminal penalties with civil fines for simple possession. Or, you can ask your legislators to support legalizing and regulating marijuana for adults’ use.
Medical marijuana laws in Tennessee
In 2014, Tennessee passed a law intended to allow seriously ill seizure patients to have access to cannabis oil containing large amounts of CBD and only trace amounts of THC. Unfortunately, like many similar bills in other states, the law turned out to be ineffective.
Nearly a year later, Gov. Haslan signed another bill, SB 280, to improve the program. While the law does provide protections for patients, it requires them to travel across state lines to a state where cannabis oil can be obtained and return to Tennessee. In addition, the law remains very limited, in that it applies only to seizure patients. To learn more about SB 280, click here. For more information on the shortcomings of laws limited to CBD, click here.
While the state inches forward on low-THC protections, two compassionate, comprehensive medical marijuana bills stalled in the legislature, despite broad public support. SB 660 remains in committee with no hearing and its companion bill, HB 561, is dead after losing a subcommittee vote. Both bills would have established a medical marijuana programs similar to those found in 23 states and the District of Columbia. In early 2014, an MTSU poll indicated Tennesseans support such a measure by 75%. Please take a moment to encourage your legislators to pass a meaningful medical marijuana bill that can help patients with serious medical conditions.
Thank you for supporting the Marijuana Policy Project and all of our allies. To receive news about Tennessee marijuana policy reform as it happens, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service if you haven’t already.